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Fwd: [UASR]> FWD [forteana] Forteanism and Occam's Razor

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  • Frits Westra
    ... From: Terry W. Colvin To: cryptolist@yahoogroups.com, skeptic@listproc.hcf.jhu.edu, uasr@topica.com,
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 26, 2005
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      ------- Forwarded message -------
      From: "Terry W. Colvin" <fortean1@...>
      To: cryptolist@yahoogroups.com, skeptic@...,
      uasr@..., ufoupdates@...
      Subject: [UASR]> FWD [forteana] Forteanism and Occam's Razor
      Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2005 05:03:45 +0100

      T. Peter
      Garden City South, L.I., N.Y.

      Writers on anomalous, paranormal, or "Fortean" phenomena often

      distinguish between the solid skeptical scientifically based study of
      anomalous phenomena versus illogical fringe thinking with no basis in
      science or even in true Forteanism. Scientific Forteans criticize fringe
      thinkers for using one mystery to solve another mystery--as in
      other-dimensional, occult, or demonological theories of UFO aliens or
      cryptids (mystery animals). The difference, I suggest, may lie in use
      versus neglect of "Occam's Razor" in explaining anomalous phenomena.
      Scientific Forteans observe Occam's principle of conceptual economy,
      while fringe thinkers ignore or defy it.

      The mediaeval Scholastic philosopher William of Occam (1285-1349)
      emphasized and popularized (though he did not invent) the maxim _non
      sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem_, "entities are not to
      be multiplied beyond necessity." This principle, named "Occam's Razor"
      in his honor, urges us to seek the simplest, most economical explanation
      for any phenomenon or problem. We should only use those entities,
      concepts, or principles that are strictly, unavoidably necessary to
      explain a given fact or phenomenon. We should avoid introducing new,
      speculative concepts if old, familiar, well- established concepts can
      explain the fact or phenomenon in question. This is an established maxim
      in philosophy and science, and should also be kept in mind by
      Forteans--though it may well be more difficult to establish the truly
      most economical explanation when dealing with phenomena as bizarre or
      puzzling as those studied by parapsychologists, UFO'logists, and

      Occam's Razor, also called the Law of Parsimony or Law of Economy,
      become an important basic regulative principle of philosophy and
      science. Occam himself used it to simplify, streamline, and "clean up"
      mediaeval philosophy, theology, and logic. He used it to dispense with
      relations (which he saw as nothing distinct from their foundation in
      things), with efficient causality (which like David Hume 400 years later
      he viewed merely as regular succession), with motion (which he
      considered merely the reappearance of a thing in different places), with
      psychological powers distinct for each mode of sense, and with the
      presence of Platonic "Ideas" in the mind of God (which he considered
      merely the creatures and objects themselves). In science, the 14th
      century French physicist Nicole d'Oresme invoked this Law of Economy, as
      did Galileo in the 17th century, in defending the simplest hypothesis
      (Copernican rather than Ptolemaic) of the heavens.

      In modern times, the French mathematician and astronomer Pierre de
      Maupertuis (1689-1759) made the Law of Parsimony a basic law of nature
      in his "Principle of Least Action." Maupertuis defined action, defined
      by *S*mv ds--i.e., the integral (*S*) of inertia (mv, or mass velocity)
      over space-time (ds, the path of length) as minimal. More recently, the
      Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach (1838- 1916) declared it
      the aim of science to present the facts of nature in the simplest and
      most economical conceptual formulations. In psychology, it appears as
      Morgan's Canon, formulated by the English biologist and philosopher C.
      Lloyd Morgan (1852-1936), who held that no action should be interpreted
      in terms of a higher psychic faculty when a lower faculty suffices.

      In some cases, it is initially unclear or ambiguous just what is
      actually the simplest, most economical explanation, involving the fewest
      entities or concepts. Scientists may be culturally and psychologically
      misled by the sheer familiarity of a cumbersome traditional theory. The
      initial resistance to heliocentric Copernican-Galilean astronomy, the
      peculiarities of the planet Mercury's orbit, first attributed to a
      hypothetical planet "Vulcan" but eventually explained by Einstein's
      General Theory of Relativity, and recent astrophysical controversies
      over "dark matter" are three good examples of this. In all these cases,
      it is a toss-up whether a proliferation of hypothetical objects of a
      somewhat familiar type or an unfamiliar but mathematically elegant new
      schema are "really" the "simpler" explanations--and whether there is
      more "cumbersomeness" or "complexity" in a multitude of unseen old-style
      objects, or in a mathematically simple but culturally unfamiliar new
      master-theory. These three cases also illustrate some of the basic
      conceptual problems Forteans face in explaining scientifically anomalous
      phenomena, such as ESP, PK, ghosts, UFO's, abductions, Bigfoot, Lake
      Monsters, or crop circles. Scientific Forteans do try to observe Occam's
      Razor. Sometimes, though, it's as hard in Forteanism as in these
      mainstream scientific examples to determine just what the truly simplest
      explanation is. With phenomena as puzzling as those studied by Forteans,
      it may be difficult to determine which of various suggested explanations
      is in fact the most economical one. For this reason, a brief description
      of these three cases may be useful, to give a sense of true versus
      false, real versus apparent explanatory economies.

      Galileo demonstrated that the heliocentric Copernican model of the
      Solar System was mathematically much simpler, more elegant, and more
      economical than the geocentric Ptolemaic model, dispensing with the
      complex epicycles needed in the Ptolemaic system to explain seeming
      irregularities in planetary motions. However, it may be argued that for
      Galileo's academic and ecclesiastical opponents, the Ptolemaic model
      subjectively "felt" simpler because of its sheer familiarity, and the
      seeming "oddity" or "novelty" of the "shift in mental gears" needed to
      visualize the new Copernican model that also offended prevailing
      cultural attitudes of reverence towards the beliefs of ancient Greek
      thinkers and early Christian Church Fathers.

      Again, when persistent peculiarities were noted in the orbit of
      in the 19th century that could not be accounted for by the gravitational
      influences of Venus and the Earth, the self-evidently obvious
      explanation in terms of the known physics and astronomy of the time was
      that they MUST be caused by a hitherto undiscovered intra-Mercurian
      planet, "Vulcan." A planet's orbit is not fixed in space, but responds
      to the net gravitational influence of other bodies in its environment.
      Through combinations of many small effects, the long axis of Mercury's
      orbit is in slow movement around the Sun. The perihelion point moves
      eastward almost 10 minutes of arc (1/6 of a degree) per century. Most of
      this procession is due to the gravitational influence of the planets,
      especially Earth and Venus, but a residual of 40" per century, not
      readily explained, was found in 1845 by Urbain LeVerrier, the
      co-discoverer of Neptune. LeVerrier attributed this discrepancy to the
      gravitational influence of hypothetical planets between Mercury and the
      Sun--a very reasonable suggestion, in view of the way Uranus and Neptune
      had been discovered through their perturbing gravitational influence on
      Saturn's orbit. Some anomalous astronomical observations in the 19th
      century suggested that such an intra-Mercurian planet did exist, and it
      was even named "Vulcan," for the Roman fire-god. A number of such
      objects were reportedly observed by 19th century astronomers in transit
      across the face of the Sun. However, very careful and complete 19th and
      20th century observations of the Sun and its neighborhood during total
      solar eclipses never confirmed their existence. The supposed "Vulcan"
      sightings are now believed to have been caused by sunspots, or in a few
      cases perhaps by an asteroid between the orbits of Earth and Venus. Some
      ufologists have even explained them as early UFO sightings!

      In 1915, however, Albert Einstein showed that the General Theory of
      Relativity predicted a perihelion advance of Mercury of 43" per century
      that the classical Newtonian theory did not. Thus, the motion of
      Mercury's orbit has been considered an important observational
      verification of the General Theory of Relativity. The post-1915
      relativistic explanation of Mercury's orbit is simpler than the old
      "Vulcan" hypothesis, in that it invokes a basic law of physics rather
      than one or more frustratingly elusive physical objects--which can now
      be dispensed with. However, in the 19th century, in view of the known
      physics of the time, and also of the spectacular success of discovering
      two previously unknown planets, Uranus and Neptune, by their
      gravitational effects on Saturn's orbit, the "Vulcan" explanation of
      Mercury's orbit seemed to be the self-evidently obvious one. Postulating
      a new, hitherto unknown, law of physics drastically modifying the
      familiar, well-established Newtonian laws of motion and gravitation,
      just to explain Mercury's orbital peculiarities, would have seemed an
      outrageously radical _ad hoc_proceeding. Better a few still-unseen
      planets than a new law of physics! It was only after Einstein had
      formulated the General Theory of Relativity for considerations quite
      unrelated to Mercury's orbit, and then got it confirmed by Mercury's
      orbit, that physicists and astronomer's accepted General Relativity as a
      simpler, more elegant, more economical explanation of Mercury's orbit.
      As for "Vulcan," the general public now mostly recognizes it as the name
      of Spock's home planet in _Star Trek_!

      In the late 20th century, astronomers noticed that galaxies and
      clusters hold together, with no stars or gas escaping from galaxies and no
      gas or galaxies from clusters, despite those galaxies and clusters
      far too little matter--far too little gas, far too few stars or individual
      possibly generate a strong enough gravitational field. Galaxies and
      should have been dissipating-- but they weren't. The magnitude of the
      ranged from a factor of a few to a factor of hundreds. To account for such
      discrepancies, astrophysicists have postulated an exotic unobservable
      "dark matter." distinct both from visibly shining stars and galaxies and
      from the ordinary "dim matter" of planets, dwarf stars, warm gas, and
      cold cosmic dust, that might make up 95% of the Universe. So far,
      however, this postulated "dark matter" has proven frustratingly elusive
      and unobservable. An Israeli physicist has suggested that this "dark
      matter" may not even exist, and that the observed curious discrepancies
      can be explained just as well or better by a modification of Newton's
      Second Law of Motion.

      Mordehai Milgrom, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Weizmann
      Institute in Rehovot, Israel, has published an article addressing this
      problem, "Does Dark Matter Really Exist?," in _Scientific American_,
      August 2002 (Vol. 287, No. 2), pp. 42-52. Noting the failure of
      astronomers and physicists to actually observe this postulated "dark
      matter," Milgrom suggests that the fault may lie not in the "dark
      matter" itself, which may not even exist, but in the laws of physics.
      Milgrom proposes a modification of Newton's laws of motion and gravity,
      called MOND for "Modified Newtonian Dynamics," to explain away the
      discrepancy. Specifically, MOND modifies Newton's second law of motion
      at low accelerations. MOND, he feels, does a very good job of
      reproducing observations. MOND introduces a new constant of nature with
      the dimensions of acceleration, called a_0 (a sub zero). When the
      acceleration is much larger than a_0, Newton's old familiar second law
      applies: force is proportioonal to acceleration. But when the
      acceleration is smaller than a_0, as near the peripheries of galaxies or
      galactic clusters,. Newton's second law is altered: force becomes
      proportional to the square of the acceleration. Thus, the force needed
      to impart a given acceleration is always smaller than Newtonian dynamics
      requires. To account for the observed accelerations in galaxies, MOND
      predicts a smaller force--hence, less gravity-producing mass--than
      Newtonian dymamics does. In this way, Milgrom believes, it can eliminate
      the need for "dark matter." At sufficiently great distances from the
      center of a galaxy or galactic cluster, the orbital velocity of stars or
      galaxies should stop decreasing and reach a constant value. Milgrom's
      MOND has not yet been generally accepted by astrophysicists--but many do
      consider it a serious contender.

      Milgrom's MOND as an explanation for discrepancies in the motions
      of galaxies and galactic clusters closely parallels Einstein's General
      Relativity as an explanation for Mercury's orbital peculiarities. In both
      cases, peculiarities in the motion of observed visible astronomical
      objects--Mercury, galaxies, galaxy clusters--have led conventional
      astrophysicists to suggest the gravitational influence of hitherto
      unobserved, curiously elusive material bodies--the planet "Vulcan,"
      "dark matter." In both cases, the postulated gravitationally perturbing
      bodies--"Vulcan," "dark matter"--have persistently remained curiously
      elusive, frustratingly difficult or impossible to observe directly. In
      both cases, the need for such elusive, hard-to-find material bodies has
      been eliminated by a proposed revision of the laws of physics.
      Einstein's General Relativity has been generally accepted by the
      scientific community, while Milgrom's MOND has not yet been generally

      To return now to Forteanism: scientific Forteans use Occam's Razor
      conscientiously. They admit new objects, new creatures, or new entities
      when it seems absolutely necessary and unavoidable to do so, but they
      try to keep their new entities more or less similar to old familiar
      entities if at all possible, and they avoid introducing completely new
      realms of being or totally new sorts of basic natural laws. Scientific
      Forteans may propose the survival in our own time of relict populations
      of supposedly extinct prehistoric hominids or reptiles. However, they
      firmly keep them anchored in the good old familiar well- known Earthly
      flesh-and-blood DNA-and-protein evolution-spawned animal kingdom, and
      NOT coming here from UFO's, other dimensions, an "Inner Earth," or a
      demonic or angelic "Goblin Universe." They may likewise find themselves
      forced to seriously admit the possibility of extraterrestrials visiting
      us in spaceships from Alpha Centauri, Tau Ceti, Zeta Reticuli, or
      wherever. However, they will interpret them conservatively as products
      of parallel biological evolution on other habitable planets in our
      Galaxy as per the SETI speculations of mainstream scientists like Frank
      Drake and Carl Sagan extrapolating from what we already have known for
      decades about astrophysics and Earthly biochemistry. They will be VERY
      chary of rushing to interpret them right away as coming from another
      dimension or from a spiritual, demonic, or angelic realm. In all such
      and other cases, scientific Forteans will stick fairly close to old
      familiar generally-accepted scientific concepts and principles whenever
      at all possible--which I see as a good use of Occam's Razor.

      Scientific Fortean study of reported "hairy hominids" like Bigfoot
      Yeti is a good example of the adherence to accepted scientific concepts
      whenever possible. Let me give a specific example suggested by your own
      comments. In 1999, Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe published _The Field
      Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide_, noting
      nine classifications for unknown hominoids. At that time, Coleman and
      Huyghe were viewed as a bit radical, "far-out," or speculative by many
      "mainstream" Bigfooters, who preferred to see populations of a single
      large erect bipedal hairy ape-man or man-ape species lurking in the
      Pacific Northwest, the Himalayas, and perhaps a couple of other areas of
      our planet. The same happened to Coleman's and Mark A.Hall's researches,
      from the 1960's onward, about a population of bad-smelling semi-aquatic
      chimpanzee-like apes ("Napes" or "Skunk Apes") in the southern United
      States. However, today, Coleman and Hall are seen clearly as mainstream
      Bigfooters. Coleman and Huyghe might have been regarded as radical or
      far-out by old-time Bigfooters only willing to recognize the "classic"
      or "standard" California Bigfoot, British Columbia Sasquatch, and
      Himalayan Yeti. Those old-line Bigfooters themselves might seem
      "radical," "far-out," "gullible," or "unscientific" to all-out Bigfoot
      and Yeti skeptics. However, Coleman, Huyghe, Mark Hall, and old-line
      Bigfooters alike are in fact orthodox scientific conservatives--though
      orthodox scientific conservatives of a very flexible, very broad-minded
      kind--in trying to fit Bigfoot, Yeti, Almas, Kaptar, Mecheny, Chuchunaa,
      Orang Pendek, Agogwe, etc., into the generally accepted zoological and
      palaeontological scientific picture of primate and hominid evolution, as
      perhaps possible modern "living fossil" relict populations of
      scientifically accepted prehistoric hominoids and hominids like
      _Gigantopithecus_, _Paranthropus_, _Australopithecus_, _Homo habilis_,
      _Homo erectus_, _Homo heidelbergensis_, Neandertals, etc.

      In all this, scientific Bigfooters all accept the broad mainstream
      scientific outline of the standard picture of hominid evolution and
      early human prehistory. In all this, Bigfooters stand in clear
      opposition to "ancient astronaut" theorists and fundamentalist
      "Scientific Creationists" who simply reject the standard scientific
      picture of primate and human evolution. Coleman, Huyghe, Mark Hall, and
      Bigfooters likewise far closer to the scientific mainstream than writers
      espousing an other-dimensional, extraterrestrial, "Inner Earth," or
      demonological interpretation of hairy hominids and other cryptids, who
      see Bigfoot appearing to hikers and campers from another dimension,
      UFO's, the Earth's interior, or the fundamentalist Christian (or Muslim)
      Hell. Indeed, if the Coleman/Huyghe/Hall type scientific "hominologists"
      are correct, and if we do eventually succeed in capturing some Sasquatches,
      Kaptars, Almas, and/or Orang Pendeks, this will be widely seen as
      new scientific confirmation of the essential correctness of the standard
      scientific human evolutionary picture, and of mainstream palaentologists'
      reconstructions of _Homo erectus_, _Homo heidelbergensis_, or Neandertals.
      A real live captured Bigfoot, Almas, Kaptar, or Orang Pendek would probably
      not give very much aid and comfort to "amcient astronaut" enthusiasts or
      "Scientific Creationists."

      Fringe thinkers, by contrast, ignore or flout Occam's Razor by
      promiscuously using one mystery to solve another mystery. They "solve"
      legitimate puzzles like Bigfoot, Lake Monsters, UFO's, or abductions by
      invoking concepts and principles that are themselves bizarre,
      speculative, mysterious, controversial, or unverifiable, in any case
      totally unrelated to any realistically foreseeable extensions of the
      generally accepted mainstream scientific world-picture--e.g.,
      other-dimensional or demonological theories of UFO's, aliens, or

      Nevertheless, we should perhaps not totally dismiss seeming fringe
      thinkers out of hand. As I've noted, when dealing with truly puzzling
      and bizarre phenomena, it may not always be easy to determine just what
      the most truly simple and parsimonious explanation might be. Slightly
      extraordinary but unquestionably scientific explanations, like the
      extraterrestrial hypothesis of UFO's and aliens or the zoological or
      primatological explanation of cryptids, have an obvious appeal for
      scientific Forteans anxious to avoid fringe, occult, mystical, or
      "metaphysical" theories if at all possible. They do seem like simple,
      obvious, straightforward explanations of the great majority of Fortean
      reports. They include the UFO's that seem like believably possible
      nuts-and-bolts spacecraft a couple of centuries ahead of ourselves
      technologically, and the aliens who seem like biologically plausible
      flesh-and-blood products of Darwinian evolution on another planet in our
      Galaxy with native environmental conditions just slightly different from
      the Earth's. They include the "hairy hominids" like Bigfoot, Almas,
      Kaptar, or Orang Pendek that seem like realistically plausible
      Neandertal, _Homo erectus_, _Australopithecus_, _Paranthropus_, or
      _Gigantopithecus_ survivors into our own era, the "lake monsters" and "sea
      serpents" that might indeed be _Plesiosaurus_ or _Zeuglodon_ survivors into
      our own time, and the swamp-dwelling West African mokele-mbembes that
      might indeed be surviving Brontosaurus-like sauropod dinosaurs.

      All such "normal," "nuts-and-bolts" or "flesh-and-blood" UFO's and
      creatures seem to need no occult, mystical, paraphysical, or
      "metaphysical"explanations. They require a stretching of "mainstream"
      science only to the point of arguing that Frank Drake's and Carl Sagan's
      hypothetical extraterrestrials are already here on Earth visiting us, or
      that dinosaurs, plesiosaurs, pre-Sapiens hominids, or other prehistoric
      creatures are not quite completely extinct after all. However, there
      are also the occasionally genuinely bizarre yet seemingly authentic
      reports, that at least seem to defy a straightforward scientific
      extraterrestrial or zoological explanation, that rather do seem to
      demand an occult, "metaphysical," or paraphysical explanation. It's
      these apparently authentic bizarre reports that have inspired interest
      in fringe, occult, and demonological theories. Such fringe theories gain
      a certain seeming plausibility because of such bizarre cases. Such cases
      give a semblance of "empirical proof" and "I always told you so"
      justification to writers and "buffs" already inclined to occult,
      mystical, "metaphysical," and demonological speculations.

      Such bizarre reports include UFO's, aliens, and cryptids
      "Black Dogs," etc.) that seemingly appear or disappear instantly, change
      shape, or pass effortlessly through solid obstacles like walls, fences,
      closed doors, trees, boulders, or dense shrubbery. They include
      "Bigfoots," "Black Dogs," and other "mystery beasts" with glowing red
      eyes, overpowering foul odors, missing feet or legs, or semi-
      transparent bodies. They include "Bigfoot"-like creatures reportedly
      seen in connection with UFO's. They include cryptids that seem
      unaffected by gunfire or other weapons. They include aliens or other
      creatures that disappear or retreat when confronted with crucifixes,
      rosaries, or prayers to religious figures like Jesus, Mary, Buddha, or
      the Archangel Michael--or that conversely became especially aggressive
      when encountering religious symbols. Such bizarre entities seem to
      almost beg to be considered ghosts, spirits, fairies, elementals,
      angels, demons, djinn, or other-dimensional "ultraterrestrials"--and
      writers like John A. Keel, Jacques Vallee, Patrick Harpur, and Janet &
      Colin Bord seem to be glad enough to comply, as are religious
      fundamentalist advocates of a demonological theory of aliens and
      cryptids. To many writers, an occult, "metaphysical,""ultraterrestrial,"
      or demonological theory can easily seem the simplest, most obvious, most
      economical explanation of such entities, the one most conforming to Occam's
      Razor. But is it, really? I'm not actually too sure!

      The bizarre, phantom-like, seemingly absurd qualities and behavior
      some reported UFO's and aliens remind me of Arthur C. Clarke's
      observation that any sufficiently advanced technology would be
      indistinguishable from magic. Teleportation, instant appearance and
      disappearance, size or shape change, levitation, invisibility, and
      passing through solid objects could be routine accomplishments for a
      science and technology thousands or millions of years and not just a
      couple of centuries in advance of ours. Some bizarre manifestations,
      too, might reflect deliberate technologically engineered
      "disinformation" by extraterrestrials bent on confusing us and
      cultivating a mental climate of incredulous belief in their existence.
      They could deliberately use technological "magic" to make some of us
      believe that they are merely the supernatural beings of our own
      traditional religious, mythological, or folkloric belief systems, and
      the rest of us believe that supposed abductees and alleged "close
      encounter" witnesses are simply neurotic, gullible victims of their own
      delusions and fantasies unable to distinguish their grotesque nightmares
      or bizarre dream-like hallucinations from reality: therefore, the wilder
      and more chaotically diversified our supposed "dreams," "fantasies," and
      "delusions," the better for the aliens concerned to have us not take
      their possible existence too seriously. If some of us think the aliens
      are really ghosts, angels, fairies, or demons, and the rest of us simply
      laugh at the bizarre tales of abductees and close-encounter witnesses
      seeing a hundred different varieties of grotesque creatures with
      sometimes ghost-like characteristics telling two dozen absurd,
      conflicting tales about their origin or home planet, that suits the
      aliens just fine. They may use hypnosis, holographic projections,
      robots, and other deceptive techniques we can't even imagine to make us
      think we're seeing "Bigfoots," giants, 3-inch diminutive little men,
      human-sized giant grasshoppers, ghosts, angels, demons, walking 6-inch
      tin cans, "birdmen," "batmen," "mothmen,"or floating disembodied brains.
      They might, for instance, deliberately "plant" occasional apparent
      sightings of "Bigfoots" with glowing red eyes and missing or
      semi-transparent feet to sow confusion, disbelief, and ridicule. Of
      course, such alien-created red-eyed spectral "Bigfoot" holographic (?)
      projections can easily co-exist with more conventional zoological hairy
      hominoid primates and relict flesh-and-blood pre-sapiens Erectus or
      Neandertal hominid populations!

      Alternatively, many of the more "bizarre" and "absurd" UFO, alien,
      cryptid reports may have their explanation not in extraterrestrial
      visitors or unknown animals, but rather in the more curious powers and
      activities of the human psyche itself, as studied by parapsychologists.
      A few seemingly "far-out" parapsychological and Fortean theories
      admittedly lie on the border between scientific Forteanism and fringe
      "metaphysical" speculation. It may largely be a matter of personal taste
      which side of that border one wishes to place them on. They include, for
      instance, speculations about "group minds," and about quasi-material
      "thought-forms" or "tulpas." I myself see such theories as stretching
      the "mainstream" scientific world-picture very nearly to its breaking
      point--but not yet QUITE breaking it. I would argue that they are not
      quite "fringe" or "metaphysical," but rather a slight extrapolation from
      traditional mainstream parapsychology--and thus scientific..

      Solid, respected parapsychologists like Whately Carington, G.N.M.
      Tyrrell, Nandor Fodor, and D. Scott Rogo have speculated about
      telepathically-generated "group minds," "collective idea- patterns," or
      "gestalts" of families, clans, tribes, cultures, political movements,
      etc. These "group minds" or "gestalts" would be telepathically created
      from the beliefs, myths, symbols, archetypal images, etc., of those
      groups, and would have a certain independent active telepathic influence
      on group members' minds. Such "group minds," "gestalts," or "collective
      idea-patterns" might explain family warning-spirits like the Irish
      banshee, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apparitions of the Virgin and
      saints, mediaeval appearances of the Devil, ancient Greek and Roman
      visions of Pan, satyrs, nymphs, dryads, Theseus, and Castor & Pollux,
      Celtic and Germanic close encounters with fairies, gnomes, leprechauns,
      dwarfs, trolls, etc.--and perhaps also UFO close encounters and
      abductions in our own time. Sometimes, some of these parapsychologists
      have suggested, these visions and apparitions take a temporarily
      semi-solid, quasi- material form as "thought-forms," "tulpas," or
      "telesmic images." UFO's, "aliens," Bigfoot, Lake Monsters, "Black
      Dogs," "Mothmen," and assorted "cryptids" might be such "tulpas." Such
      "tulpas" might actually have a temporary physical existence--as
      collective psychic projections of our own human "group minds," or
      perhaps of Carl Gustav Jung's "Collective Unconscious." Again, such
      "tulpas" of UFO's, aliens, or cryptids could coexist with real
      extraterrestrial nuts-and-bolts starships, real flesh-and-blood aliens,
      real flesh-and-blood zoological cryptids, and real relict pre-sapiens

      Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman at one time proposed something along
      such lines in _The Unidentified_ (1975), where they drew on Carl Jung's
      theories to describe the UFO phenomenon as a planetary poltergeist
      generating apparitions from Humankind's repressed collective unconscious
      to create UFO manifestations, Men in Black, etc.--some of which ideas
      former FATE editor Clark reportedly now disavows. Anyway, I myself
      suspect that a theory of "group minds" and "tulpas" might perhaps
      explain many of the more bizarre, "ghostly," "phantom-like" UFO, alien,
      and cryptid reports, without resorting to more speculative occult,
      "metaphysical," or demonological theories about fairies, elementals,
      djinn, devas, angels, demons, or "ultraterrestrials." A parapsychological
      theory of "group minds" and "thought- forms," indeed, could help scientific
      Forteans defend their approach against the advocates of fringe and
      theories. We sometimes may need to consider the SOMEWHAT extraordinary
      and MODERATELY "far-out" to avoid being pressured or seduced into
      believing the EXTREMELY extraordinary. William of Occam, I think, would
      have approved.
      T. Peter
      Garden City South, L.I., N.Y.
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